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Open Door Policy

Open Door PolicyJustin moved silently along the passageway, stopping twice to listen for the sound of someone following him. So far, so good. He thought he’d left without waking Denny or Luke, but you couldn’t be too careful. Fortunately, he’d been the one to drive back from Vegas last night. The others had both been so drunk that the car would have gone off the road if he hadn’t.

The Vegas trip had actually been his idea. Justin liked the lights, the noise, the clubs, the whole thing. And he was on a lucky streak too; he’d won five hundred bucks. Denny and Luke had managed to win, too. And that was the reason Justin was moving as quietly as he was. Their seven hundred dollars made a very nice addition to his own takings. As long as they didn’t remember much about what had happened – and he didn’t think they would, as hammered as they’d been – he’d be all right.

Then he heard a door slam. And the low rumble of angry voices trying not to attract attention.
‘Where is that sonofabitch?’ That was Luke.
‘I didn’t hear his car. He’s got to be around here somewhere,’ Denny growled back.
Damn! They were awake! And they were not going to be happy with him.

That was when Justin saw it. The door straight ahead on the right side of the passage wasn’t quite closed. He didn’t know who lived in that apartment, but right now it didn’t matter. He glanced around when he got to the door, and then turned the knob, holding it tightly so it wouldn’t make any noise.

Within seconds he was inside. He stood still, trying to figure out whether whoever lived here was asleep or maybe in the bathroom. Hearing nothing, he took three steps to the middle of the living room. If he had to, he could go out the door from the living room to the patio. Getting off the patio would be easy, since this was a ground-floor apartment.

Then Justin heard what sounded like a cross between a moan and a loud gurgle. The sound seemed to be coming from the hallway just beyond the living room. He moved over a little so he could see the entire length of the hall. His throat closed as he saw the man lying on the floor just outside of what looked like the bathroom door. There were large, rusty stains on his light-blue T-shirt, and what looked like blood pooling on the carpet next to him.

Justin fought the urge to retch as he backed away from the scene. He’d better leave right now, before anyone knew he was here. He’d call the police – maybe – but not until he was clear of this place. Just as he was about to leave, the front door opened and he heard a gasp. He whirled around and looked right at the woman at the door. She had a messy sable brown ponytail and wore a loose-fitting grey t-shirt and track pants.
‘Thank God!’ she said. ‘You got the bastard!’
‘Me? No! I didn’t – Oh, my God! I was just – I – ’
‘You don’t have to explain anything, OK? I hated him. He made my life miserable. You helped me out.’
Justin shook his head. ‘I – I didn’t…’ he started.
‘I told you, it’s OK. Look, my name’s Chloe, what’s yours?’
‘I got to get out of here.’ Justin started towards the patio door.
‘Wait!’ Chloe’s voice stopped him. ‘I’ll even help you. That’s what you used, right?’ she said, pointing to a large carving knife lying next to the body.
‘But I didn’t!’
‘I’m not going to ask any questions. We just need to get rid of the body. First, get the knife and we’ll clean it. I have bleach.’

Numb with shock, Justin moved slowly over to the body. He looked up at Chloe. She nodded encouragingly, and he reached out and picked up the knife. Stretching his arm out, he carried it as far in front of him as he could towards where she was still waiting.

Then he saw a cold smile start to curl the corners of her mouth. His eyes widened as she said, ‘This is perfect!’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘How stupid are you? I’ve wanted Ash dead for a long time. Now here you are, all ready to take the blame for it. I should actually thank you.’
Now Justin was angry. ‘I don’t know who the hell you think you are, lady, but I’m not going to play your sick game.’
‘You already are,’ she said as her smile got a bit wider. ‘I saw you from outside, through the patio door. I’ve already called the cops. They’ll be here any minute. You tried to rob the place, Ash tried to be the big he-man – typical – and you killed him. Poor little me, I saw the whole thing from outside while I was throwing away some trash.’

They were both silent for a second. In the distance, Justin could hear the faint sound of a siren. It started to get louder as the police car got closer. Completely forgetting he was still holding the knife, Justin started to move towards the patio door again. As he did, he could hear familiar voices outside calling to each other. Denny and Luke were still looking for him, and they would be in no hurry to help him.

Seconds later, official-sounding footsteps pounded down the hall. Two uniformed officers appeared at the door. Chloe turned to face them. Fake tears had already filled her eyes as she told them her story.

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Don’t Ask Me Why*

LiebsterBlogQuestionsThere’s a lot of excitement here at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist…. Author A.R. Rivera has been kind enough to award Confessions… this terrific Liebster Blog Award! Isn’t it lovely?
 
 
 
 
liebster-award

Now, this award comes with a request to answer eleven questions. So….here goes.

 

1. What is your greatest passion?

I’d have to say writing. But I love music, too.

 

2. How old were you when you discovered this passion?

I wrote my first (mercifully forgettable) short story when I was, I think, ten years old. I’ve not looked back since.

 

3. Name your biggest celebrity crush:

Ahh, anyone who knows me can answer this question! It’s the Piano Man himself, Billy Joel.

 

4. All-time favorite novel:

I’m going to hedge on this one, because I’ve loved several novels. I honestly really couldn’t pick just one.

 

5. What was it about that story/character drew you to that particular novel?

Again, I’m hedging here. For each novel that I’ve truly loved, there’s been something distinctive about the character or setting or plot that especially drew me in. But that distinctive thing is different for each book.

 

6. Favorite TV show?

I really liked Jerry Bruckheimer’s Cold Case very much and was sorry to see it go. It may not have been the most realistic or deep show, but there was something about it that really appealed to me. Perhaps it was the careful and effective use of soundtracks for the various episodes. And I do like mystery plots that tie together the past and the present.

 

7. What is your pet peeve?

Probably lack of consideration. That can take many different forms, from not answering an email reasonably promptly, to cutting in front of another driver without signaling, to having a long, loud telephone conversation in public. And those are just a few examples. There are seven billion of us on this planet; we all have to learn to live with each other. I think it’s important to keep in mind that what we do impacts other people.

 

8. If you could meet any person, living or dead, who would it be and why?

I think I would richly enjoy a conversation with Agatha Christie. She was a really interesting person with so much writing talent. I’ll bet I could learn an awful lot from her and I’d love that opportunity.

 

9. Would you rather have super-strength or super-intelligence?

Hmmm… super-intelligence.

 

10. What one thing are you most proud of?

Professionally, I’m most proud of the fact that my writing hasn’t stagnated. I really think, honestly, that it’s gotten a bit better over time. Writing isn’t easy; sticking with it is even harder.

 

11. Name your favorite band and post your favorite song.

If I had to choose just one band, it would be The Beatles.

 

So there you have it: eleven more pieces of random and unnecessary information about me. ;-). At this point, I’m supposed to nominate other bloggers for this award. But there are honestly too many blogs I really admire and too many bloggers from whom I learn every day. So instead, I’ll invite you to visit some of the great blogs listed on my sidebar. Tell ‘em Margot sent you. And please do yourself a favour and visit A.R. Rivera’s terrific blog site!

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a Billy Joel song.

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Crime Fiction News Break


 

Links You’ll Want

 

Pushkin Press

Rogue

Never Sleep

K.B. Owen

Geoffrey McGeachin’s Adelaide Writers Week presentation

Arthur Ellis Awards

CrimeFest 2015

Petrona Award Shortlist

Festival of Phryne

Murder in the Manor at The Stage 

ITV’s new series of Endeavor 

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I’m Gonna Wait ‘Til the Midnight Hour*

Time of DeathNot long ago, I mentioned the number of fictional crimes that occur at night. There certainly seemed to be a lot of them. The post got me to thinking about when fictional murders actually occur. Do they really happen mostly at night, as it seems?

To answer that question, I decided to look at some data. I chose 200 fictional murders from crime novels that I’ve read (which in itself admittedly limits the data). I divided those murders into five categories based on the time they were committed (with an understanding that in some cases, the time of death isn’t exactly precise). Here’s what I found.

 

TOD

 

As you can see, 40% of these fictional murders (80) take place in the evening, more or less from about 7:00 pm until about midnight. The data also show that 23% (45) take place late at night, from approximately midnight until approximately 4:00 am. Combine those two findings and you have fully 63% of the fictional murders (125) in this set taking place between the close of the workday and early the next morning.

On the surface of it, it certainly seems as though the evening and night are very dangerous times for fictional characters. And that does make sense, when you think of the cover that darkness provides, and the relative opportunities to be alone with the victim. And although it’s by no means a hard and fast rule, if you’re going to catch your victim unawares, it makes sense to choose a time when she or he might be asleep, might have had a few drinks, or might be under some other influence. That’s in fact what happens in several of the murders I included in this data.

But before assuming that locking the door at night is a guarantee of safety, let’s take another look at this data. As you’ll notice, 22% of these fictional murders (43) occur during afternoon hours (between lunchtime and 6:00 pm or so). Some of these murders occur at the workplace, where the murderer is a colleague or someone else connected with one’s job. And in some areas, especially suburbia, everyone’s at work during the day. So it’s a good time to target an at-home victim, since there’s less likelihood of witnesses.

So when are you safest? When are fictional characters least likely to meet an untimely end? If this data reflect crime fiction in general, it’s morning. Only 7% (15) of the fictional murders I included here are committed between about 5:00 am and 10:00 am. So you can feel free to enjoy that morning paper if you read it, and your tea or coffee. You probably won’t be disturbed. And actually, that finding isn’t particularly surprising, when you think about it. That’s the time of day when many (certainly not all!) people are heading to work, or taking their dogs for a run, or are otherwise out and about. So there are more potential witnesses, something most murderers would like to avoid.

The mid-morning hours (between about 10:00 am and noon or 1:00 pm) are also relatively safe. In this data set, 8% (17) of the fictional murders are committed at this time of day. Again, people are often out and about during those hours. And fictional victims may very well not be in an easily-accessible and private place.

So, what can we conclude from all of this? Those evening and late-night hours can be very dangerous for fictional characters. But if you really think about it and look at this data, there really is no perfectly safe time if a crime writer has marked you…

Have a nice day! ;-)

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Wilson Pickett and Steve Cropper’s In The Midnight Hour.

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All in the Family ;-)

Family PhotosEaster and Passover will soon be upon us. Whether you celebrate one, the other, both, or neither, you know it’s a time for family gatherings. And that puts me in mind of…
 
 

…a quiz!  I don’t want to hear it! You know you always need to come here prepared! ;-)

We’re all deeply affected by the families we grew up in, and the ones we create. Crime-fictional sleuths are no different. And as a dedicated crime fiction fan, you know all about those sleuths’ parents, siblings and so on, don’t you? Or do you? Take this handy quiz and find out. Match each question to the correct answer. At the end of the quiz, submit your answers and see how well you have done. You can also go back and check your answers to see which ones you got correct.
 

Note: To those of you who tried to take the quiz and weren’t able to access it, I’m truly sorry. I know that’s frustrating. I believe all is well now, so please give it a go!
 

Ready? Open the family ‘photo album to begin…if you dare!  ;-)

 

FamilyPhotoAlbum

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